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New border controls already having a negative impact

Posted: 31 May 2024

By Greg Pitcher


Independent retailers have spoken of product shortages and supplier losses after the latest wave of Brexit border controls kicked in.

The UK Government on 30th April introduced documentary, physical and identity checks for so-called ‘medium risk’ animal products, plants and plant products imported from the EU.

This represented the latest wave of implementation of the controversial Border Target Operating Model, brought in after the EU exit to promote biosecurity. 

Antonio Picciuto, owner of Buongiorno Italia in Hertfordshire, described the checks as “a nightmare scenario”.

“Nearly all of our products are from Italy,” he explained. 

“Before Brexit life was easy. Now we constantly get emails from our suppliers regarding product shortages due to border checks and the wrong documentation being produced.”

The cost of the new measures was being passed on, he added, making it more difficult to keep products competitively priced on the shelves.

Ian Kavanagh, co-owner of Black Forest Deli, said the Welsh business had given up importing charcuterie from Germany and would look to make meat products itself.

“I use small businesses in the Black Forest and they don’t want to do vet checks,” he said. “Suppliers told me it was too much hassle.

“I will take it on myself to prepare the meat in the German style. My background is in that area and I have a smokehouse big enough to go commercial, so I’ll give it a go.”

Kate Shirley-Quirk, director at Delicioso UK, said the Spanish-food importer had been forced to end relationships with some producers since the checks were introduced.

“We have had to stop using a couple of our more artisan suppliers unfortunately, because they have not been able to provide all the required levels of certification,” she said.

“All our suppliers, particularly of charcuterie, are scratching their heads trying to work out what they need to do and whether each particular product falls into the low, medium or high risk category. They export all over the world and have never come across this arbitrary way of dividing cured meats.”

Shirley-Quirk described a “lack of information” from ministers over the detail of the border checks as “shocking”.

“The Spanish Government has been much more helpful in advising our customs agent than our own Government have been in advising us,” she claimed. “So we, and our suppliers in Spain, are relying on them to a large extent to get the paperwork sorted out.” 

This article first appeared in the June 2024 edition of Fine Food Digest .